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ECG Voltage May Predict Poor Heart Failure Outcomes

Researchers find that low voltage is associated with disease severity, increased risk of death

FRIDAY, Sept. 1 (HealthDay News) -- In patients with heart failure, low electrocardiogram voltage is a marker of disease severity and may be associated with an increased risk of death, according to a study published in the August issue of the American Heart Journal.

Mark H. Drazner, M.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues studied two groups of patients: 415 who had a low left ventricular ejection fraction and received follow-up at a heart failure clinic, and 100 with advanced heart failure who had an ECG within a year before undergoing cardiac transplantation. They defined low voltage as the lowest quartile of the clinic cohort (less than 12 mV).

In the clinic group, the researchers found that low voltage was more frequent in New York Heart Association class 4 patients than in class 1-3 patients (34 percent versus 22 percent). They also found that low voltage was twice as common in the pre-transplant group as in the clinic group (47 percent versus 24 percent). After one year, they found that low voltage was associated with a higher rate of death in the clinic group (14 percent) compared to higher voltage (5 percent).

"We propose new criteria for defining low ECG voltage (less than 12 mV) in patients with heart failure due to systolic dysfunction," the authors write.

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